Championship outfit Bristol City took another notable scalp in their Carabao Cup campaign this season, goals from strike duo Famara Diédhiou and Matt Taylor sealing a 2-0 third-round victory over a Stoke side that looked strong on paper at Ashton Gate, despite Robins boss Lee Johnson making nine changes to the starting line-up from the side that saw off Derby County in the league over the weekend.
Goalscorer Diédhiou was one of the players to whom Johnson handed a recall, alongside fellow goalscorer and strike partner Matt Taylor, and the duo repaid their manager’s faith by leading the line in fine fashion, capping their respective performances with a goal and assist a piece, and proving a menace to Mark Hughes’ defence throughout the night.
In fact, the former Angers man almost brought the majority of the 13,826 crowd inside Ashton Gate to their feet as early as the second minute, when he pounced on Kevin Wimmer’s short back-pass but saw his right-footed effort thwarted by goalkeeper Lee Grant who’d rushed from his line to intervene.
That set the tone for a strong start from the hosts against their top-flight opponents, with a host of chances falling the way of the Robins before Stoke began to creep into the contest as the half wore on. Amongst these Taylor almost bagged himself a first-half assist after his pass played in Niclas Eliasson down the right, who cut inside and saw his effort go inches wide of the upright.
After Stoke’s Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting saw his angled effort saved by City goalkeeper Luke Steele, the home side looked to hit the Potters on the counter-attack, Diédhiou this time almost providing the killer pass with a beautifully weighted pass into strike partner Taylor, who could only divert his effort into the side netting when put under pressure by Glen Johnson.
Stoke would miss the last big chance before the interval, however, Kurt Zouma crashing a header off the bar from a Charlie Adam corner, Bristol City defender Aden Flint being forced to clear off the line twice in the subsequent scramble. And the Premier League side would be made to rue their wastefulness just five minutes after half-time, and it was Diédhiou again at the heart of their torment.
It all started from Stoke City’s own goal-kick. Bristol City’s Aden Flint was allowed to leap unchallenged and head the ball clear in the centre of his own half, inadvertently sending Matt Taylor racing clear of Bruno Martins Indi and Josh Tymon.
Diédhiou made a clever run inside Kurt Zouma to support his fellow forward, and when Taylor’s right-footed effort across goal came back off the underside of Lee Grant’s right-hand post, Diédhiou was well placed to bundle home with a headed effort from close range to put the Robins a goal to the good and steamrolling towards a cup upset.
And the duo weren’t done there, as they would combine once more for the killer goal just ten minutes later. Steele’s long punt up-field looked to be dropping in the centre of the Stoke half, with Kurt Zouma in position to intervene.
Diédhiou, however, was in pursuit, and timed his jump perfectly to beat Zouma to the ball and play a perfectly weighted headed flick on through to Taylor.
The former Bristol Rovers man did the rest, racing clear of the retreating Wimmer and firing a left-footed shot low across Lee Grant and into the bottom right corner to hand the Robins a two-goal cushion. A goal and an assist a piece now for both strikers.
Diédhiou almost helped the hosts do more damage later in the second half, as his low cross along the six-yard box was just a little too quick for the onrushing Aden Flint to direct towards goal.
Diédhiou was then withdrawn for leading scorer Bobby Reid, before Taylor was given a standing ovation with two minutes remaining as Korey Smith was thrown into the fray to see out the closing stages of the game.
Overall, a fine performance from both attacking players and a strong message about the strength in depth that this Bristol City team has; a welcome conundrum for manager Lee Johnson which will surely provide food for thought ahead of the weekend’s trip to Norwich.
With two Premier League teams now put to the sword this season, Bristol City will surely be a team to look out for in the Carabao Cup’s Fourth Round (Round of 16) draw, to be held following the conclusion of Manchester United’s Third Round match-up with Burton on Wednesday 20th September.